Cocaine addiction is a process that forms from both chemical and psychological problems in the brain. Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that blocks the reuptake of dopamine in the brain. That means the chemical process that would normally remove and recycle excess dopamine from your brain would be hindered, causing a buildup of the naturally occurring chemical. But the human brain is adaptable, and you’ll start to get used to new chemical levels that are caused by cocaine. In fact, chemical dependence is caused by your brain integrating cocaine into its normal chemical functions. If you stop using cocaine, you’ll experience withdrawal.
However, your highly adaptable brain can recover from dependence within weeks, if you have help. But cocaine doesn’t just affect your brain chemistry. The increased dopamine levels also have a profound impact on the reward center of your brain. Your reward center can mistake cocaine use for life-sustaining activities such as eating and sleeping, and it may start to cause powerful cravings.
Overcoming cocaine addiction isn’t easy, but it can be done in a way that’s safe and effective. Learn more about how you can quit cocaine safely.
Cocaine use usually starts as a social or recreational activity. You use at parties, with friends, or just because you’re curious to give it a try. But cocaine is powerfully addictive because of the chemical and psychological effects mentioned earlier. After repeated use, you might start to notice a change in the way you use and the reasons you use.
First, the way you use might change because of tolerance. The dose you started with is less effective than it used to be, so you increase the amount you use to achieve the same high. You may even go through cocaine binges, where you dose multiple times in a row in a single sitting. This is especially common with crack cocaine.
As your use increases, you become more and more entrenched in chemical dependence and addiction. They way you use can also change based on the surrounding circumstances. Where you may have been in a party setting before, an addicted person may use in secret, hiding their drug use from friends and family.
The reasons you use are even more telling when you are determining if your cocaine use has become a substance use disorder. If you started using out of curiosity or for social recreation, you might notice a shift where you start using out of a feeling of necessity. Instead of using cocaine for fun, you may start to use it to feel normal. Without it, you start to experience uncomfortable symptoms like depression, fatigue, hypersomnia, and anxiety.
You might also notice a cocaine addiction in a friend or family member by some outward signs and symptoms. In many cases, encouragement from a loved one is the catalyst a person needs to get the help they need. Other signs of cocaine use have become a problem can include:
Cocaine addiction can be dangerous for many reasons. It can have an impact on your mental and physical health, your social life, and it can especially lead to financial problems. Cocaine is called the rich man’s drug because it often comes with a high price tag. People with severe addictions can spend hundreds of dollars on cocaine every day.
Drug withdrawal is what happens when your body is adjusting its chemical balance after you stop using a drug that you had become addicted to. Drug withdrawal can be extremely unpleasant. Your brain chemistry is thrown into a state of imbalance until it returns to normal, which can take up to a week. Some drugs can even cause potentially deadly withdrawal symptoms without medical treatment. But what about cocaine? What will happen when you stop using this powerful stimulant?
Cocaine, like other drugs, is a substance that affects your mood and behavior. Since it primarily affects dopamine, a neurochemical that functions to regulate your mood and motivation, your mood and motivation will be affected by withdrawal symptoms. Unlike drugs like alcohol or benzodiazepines, cocaine usually doesn’t cause withdrawal symptoms that cause medical emergencies like seizures or delirium tremens (DTs). However, it can cause unpleasant symptoms that make it difficult to get through withdrawal on your own. Your mood can be affected in two major ways: agitation and depression.
The general discomfort that comes with withdrawal, plus the chemical imbalance that’s occurring in your brain, can cause you to become anxious and irritable. Cocaine lifted your mood and caused you to feel empowered. As the drug leaves your system, your mood will plummet, causing you to feel restless, agitated, and even panicked.
Your mood can also fall in such a way to bring on deep depression. As a stimulant, cocaine created a buildup of dopamine in your system that your brain grew accustomed to. Without cocaine, you will have a sudden lack of dopamine running through your nervous system, which means your brain might have trouble stimulating your nervous system when you start to feel down.
During withdrawal, you may have general feelings of discomfort and vivid, unpleasant dreams that make it difficult for you to achieve restful sleep, even though you will feel significant fatigue. Eventually, exhaustion will cause you to sleep, and it may cause hypersomnia, which is when a person sleeps for long periods. Generally, your activity and cognitive ability may be slowed, and a feeling of apathy combined with fatigue may cause a significant increase in activity.
Cocaine is also an appetite suppressant, which causes many people to lose weight when addicted. During withdrawal, your appetite will increase, and some people may start to gain weight, especially after days of low activity. However, a healthy appetite and some weight gain are normal and healthy for many people in cocaine addiction recovery.
Though cocaine withdrawal isn’t typically life-threatening, the most dangerous symptom will be a deep depression. In some cases, depression can be extremely severe. Your mood will drop dramatically as your dopamine levels return to normal. Plus, many people experience unpleasant and even traumatic events during active addiction.”
Addiction can make it more likely for you to be the victim of a violent crime, and many people do things they regret out of desperation for cocaine. Together, these chemical and psychological factors can cause suicidal thoughts or actions. If you begin to have these thoughts, it’s important to speak to a professional and recognize that the way you are feeling is most likely temporary.
Though cocaine withdrawal is not normally dangerous, it can be difficult to overcome on your own. In addition to unpleasant symptoms and deep depression, cocaine withdrawals will come with powerful cravings that are difficult to resist on your own. Without help, it’s more likely that you’ll relapse than make it to sobriety. Detox and treatment are the most effective ways to get through cocaine withdrawal to lasting recovery.
If you have medical needs, your treatment may start with medical detox, the highest level of care in addiction treatment. Medical detox is an important level of care for people who might go through dangerous withdrawal or if they have other medical conditions that need to be addressed. Detox involves 24-hour medically managed care for five to 10 days, depending on your specific needs.
After detox, you may move to the next level of care that’s appropriate for your needs. If you have psychological or medical conditions that require high, levels of care, you might need to go through an inpatient program that offers 24-hour monitoring. If you can live on your own, you may go through intensive outpatient treatment or an outpatient program.
Through treatment, you will go through a program that’s tailor-made for your needs. Your treatment plan can include a variety of therapies including individual, family, and group therapies.
To learn more about your cocaine addiction treatment options, you can speak to a treatment specialist at The Palm Beach Institute. Call 855-960-5456 to learn more about addiction treatment and therapy options we offer that can help lead you to lasting recovery.
Healthline. (2016, December 23). Hypersomnia: Causes, Symptoms, and More. from https://www.healthline.com/health/hypersomnia
Roy, A. (2009). Characteristics of cocaine dependent patients who attempt suicide. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19123108
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2017, March 3). Cocaine withdrawal: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000947.htm